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17 May 2024
6 mins
Thank You, PM Lee, Our Brother, Our Leader

Since becoming Prime Minister in 2004, PM Brother Lee Hsien Loong has spoken at every May Day Rally. This year’s rally held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre was his last as he passes the baton to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on 15 May.

“As I prepare to hand over Singapore in good order to my successor, I feel a sense of satisfaction and completeness. I have done my duty,” Brother Lee said.

From the loud applause and not one but two standing ovations, the Labour Movement overwhelmingly agrees. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as PM himself was visibly emotional when he bowed to the crowd. The deep sense of gratitude to a great leader was heartfelt.

“The Prime Minister has walked a journey with the Labour Movement, so he’s part of our family,” said SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew.

Sister Mary, who was NTUC President from 2015 to 2023, presented a special gift, a set of medallion coins depicting a hybrid orchid cultivated in 2016 to mark SMOU’s 65th anniversary, to honour the special leader.

“We wanted to present this gift that meant a lot to us to PM, to show the appreciation the SMOU has for him.

The growth of the Labour Movement was made possible by the stability of the country under PM Lee’s stewardship, Sister Mary pointed out. “I’ll always remember his quote that ‘tripartism is our national treasure’; we must never take it for granted and we must always grow it.”

In his speech, Brother Lee pointed out that the Labour Movement has been with the PAP “since the very beginning, long before independence. Our symbiotic partnership was born in a crucible of fire,” he remarked.

Tripartism played a vital role in this journey. The crucial turning point was NTUC’s Modernisation Seminar in 1969, which was when the old adversarial approach, unions versus employers, was replaced with “a cooperative, tripartite strategy, based on trust and confidence”.

“As Mr Lee Kuan Yew said at the NTUC’s 50th anniversary in 2011, I quote him: “Growth is meaningless unless it is shared by the workers, shared not only directly in wage increases but indirectly in better homes, better schools, better hospitals, better playing fields and generally a healthier environment for families to bring up their children.”

“Today, in the 70th year of the PAP’s founding, and after 20 years as your PM, I can tell you, in all good conscience, that both the NTUC and the PAP have delivered on our promises to Singaporeans. Therefore, once again, thank you very much, NTUC!”

The unions, Brother Lee said, will play an even more crucial role in the future as Singapore deals with geopolitical and economic uncertainty.

The Labour Movement received another “well done” from Brother Lee for transforming themselves to remain relevant and for reaching beyond blue-collar workers, to look after graduates, professionals, platform workers, and the self-employed. 45% of NTUC members are now PMEs.

Among the many good work acknowledged by Brother Lee was the Labour Movement’s forming “Company Training Committees (CTCs) in hundreds of firms, to plan and execute training and upgrading programmes together with the employers”.

NTUC also “found ways to be hip, in order to reach out to young workers, even while they are still in post-secondary institutions, through nEbO (nobody Enjoys being Ordinary)”.

“You pushed for stronger support for families and caregiving, and greater gender equality, and showed by example – you elected three female NTUC Presidents, and you nurtured the first female President of the Republic of Singapore,” he said.

Singapore has built a “strong foundation for future generations: with adequate reserves to tide over extreme difficulties; with international respect that gives us a seat at the table; with a cohesive society that hangs together in the darkest hours; and a vibrant and inclusive economy that creates opportunities and hope for all Singaporeans”.

“Make the most of these advantages. Never throw them away. Stay united, think long term, and maintain our political stability. That is the way forward for Singapore,” Brother Lee underscored.

In one voice, the Labour Movement joined Brother Lee and the tripartite partners in saying, Majulah Singapura!

For PM Lee’s May Day Rally speech in full:

Next PM Lawrence Wong has LM’s Fullest Support

Singapore’s next prime minister Lawrence Wong has the “fullest support” of the Labour Movement, said NTUC Secretary-General Brother Ng Chee Meng.

“The Labour Movement looks forward to continuing our strong partnership with you to benefit Singapore’s workers and for the prosperity of the nation,” said Brother Ng.

DPM Wong’s journey with the Labour Movement has been longstanding, Brother Ng noted.

He has been a steadfast ally of the Labour Movement, advocating for workers since his time as CEO of the Energy Market Authority in 2008 and also served as advisor to the Union of Power and Gas Employees (UPAGE) and the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU). He commended DPM Wong’s advocacy for workers, notably during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, Mr Wong launched the Forward SG exercise at a Labour Movement engagement with union leaders, symbolising the importance of tripartism and NTUC’s role in upholding the compact with workers.

Brother Ng attributed Singapore’s industrial harmony to tripartism and the trust built between NTUC, the Government and employers.

“Tripartism remains key to Singapore’s success. To achieve economic growth, and to achieve better wages, better welfare, and better work prospects for all workers, including PMEs,” he added.

Brother Ng also said that NTUC has championed workers’ interests across all segments, including youths, caregivers, mature workers, lower-wage workers and PMEs.

Unlike unions in other countries facing declining membership, NTUC has grown its membership base by more than 30 per cent in the past three years. NTUC now has more than 1.3 million members.

As Brother Lee said, the next chapter of the Singapore Story is off to a strong start.